MANSFIELD – The Richland Outreach Center has a new home, and on Saturday volunteers delivered Christmas presents to 390 kids in Richland County with help from Santa, the Grinch and many volunteers.
Tara Carney, founder and executive director of the Richland Outreach Center, said the non-profit agency’s new building to house its recreation center was purchased earlier this year.
For decades, the site has housed Toy Time. The two-story building is going to be renovated, and it is expected to be ready for use by children of all ages this summer, when COVID-19 social gathering restrictions are hopefully lifted.
Since the traditional Cookies with Santa event couldn’t take place in person this month with COVID-19 guidelines, the agency said children who signed up would receive their gifts delivered, or in some cases, recovered by their parents.
The children received a new toy, cookies donated by Storyside Church, which Richland Outreach Center volunteers baked, a stocking and more. Save-A-Lot donated a gift bag for each child.
When operational, the recreation center will provide a hygienic pantry, space for movies and games, and sports workshops like those held at Ocie Hill. The outreach center will be open after school during the week and once normal activities are in place there are plans to have an after school program in place, Carney said.
Any child or teenager in Richland County is welcome. McKenzie Sanchez runs the Kidz & Teenz Roc program.
Dawn Davis, president of the Richland Outreach Center, said the agency has been in business since 2016.
Carney said that in the first year 115 adults and children came to Cookies with Santa Claus, and last year 1,000 children and their families attended the fun day of crafting and decorating cookies.
Since March and the onset of the coronavirus, the agency has not been able to meet the children and do youth programming. The organizers are planning a Zoom movie night in 2021.
“Whatever we would usually do at our in-person event, we put it in the bag so they can do it at home,” Carney said on Saturday as she was surrounded by gift bags lined up on the floor. .
“A craft, cookies with icing so that they can decorate, as a stocking, a new toy for each of the children (in the family), hot chocolate, marshmallows, hats and gloves. We just wanted to be sure you can do something, ”Davis said.
Ashley Elber, who oversees sports programs, has many sports plans.
“We’re going to do some of the sports the kids want. We’ll have dodgeball, soccer, softball and later on softball and soccer clinics,” she said. “We’ll have a week or two and talk about different sports and we’ll talk about health too.”
Carney said community support has been good and more community support is needed to redo the building.
Andy Vanderpool, vice president of the nonprofit agency, and Charlie Justice, Santa’s volunteer, also handed out gift bags.
Carney said community members and businesses donated so many for the Christmas event, including Dollar General, Bo Lacey Construction and Camo Cleaners, who all donated hats.
Carney said the idea for a recreation center started when she worked in a Cash Advance as a manager and heard many stories from customers who said they couldn’t afford to enroll. their children to sports programs.
She started an online auction group and the members decided to go ahead with a mentoring program and the 501 (c) (3) was able to operate initially in a room in Ocie Hill then s’ expand into the Harker and Bowman Street building before moving to the old Toy Time building.
The mailing address for the Richland Outreach Center is PO Box 162, Mansfield 44901.